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Annan receives emotional welcome in East Timor

Press Release
UN NEWS

Secretary-General receives emotional welcome in East Timor

17 February -- On his first visit to East Timor after it was racked by post-referendum violence, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today told the people of the troubled territory that the UN was working hard to rebuild their land and bring law and order to it.

"We are here as your partners," Mr. Annan stressed in his remarks to a swelling crowd of 5,000 in Liquica, a town which has been called the "killing field" of East Timor after a wave of murders, rape and destruction by the militia that followed last year's vote for independence.

"Together we can weather the current crisis and usher in a new era for East Timor - an era in which East Timor takes its place in the family of nations, and in which its men, women and children can live in dignity and peace."

Mr. Annan also told the residents of Liquica that UN police and human rights teams were investigating last year's events, and that a judicial system was beginning to take shape to ensure that justice would be handed down in courtrooms, and "not in the streets."

He added that the international community had pledged $500 million towards reconstruction work to restore basic services and rebuild infrastructure.

"That money is now beginning to flow," he said, "meaning that reconstruction will begin in earnest and jobs will be created."

Earlier, the Secretary-General had laid a wreath in memory of those who had died during last April's massacre at a village church. The survivors standing nearby cried and one after another embraced the Secretary-General and his wife. Mr. Annan told the villagers that he found it "particularly shocking" that a house of worship would be desecrated.

Before flying by helicopter to Liquica, Mr. Annan met in Dili with UN Transitional Administrator Sergio Vieira de Mello, independence leader Xanana Gusmão, Nobel Peace Laureate Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, and Bishop Basilio Nascimento.

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